[Revised March 21, 2014]
A few years ago, shortly after launching my own practice and blog, I posted a Top 10 list of resources for early stage entrepreneurs. As things quickly evolved, I followed up with another post, and another, bringing the total to 15.
Brevity may be the soul of wit, as they say, but it’s not necessarily the best way to approach reference collections. For some purposes, the more encyclopedic, the better. I am humbled to be listed in Steve Blank’s exhaustive compilation of useful tools and blogs for entrepreneurs. Yet the enduring popularity of “Top 10” and similar lists (including this one) demonstrates value in curating a useful-but-manageable group of links.
Without further ado, here is the latest (version 3.0) Top 20 List of free online resources addressing key recurring themes and questions that most founders raise in our initial meetings: Assembling a founding team, choosing and forming a legal entity, deciding on how to compensate co-founders and employees, gauging market conditions for venture capital and angel funding, working with venture accelerators and incubators, making sense of recent variants such as convertible equity and SAFE, deciphering legal jargon and documents used in VC and angel financing rounds, identifying and retaining the best professional advisors, evaluating crowdfunding as an option, and so forth. Where applicable, I’ve added Twitter links to follow the authors. (I myself tweet daily on topics related to social media, tech entrepreneurship, law, politics, and sometimes just pure fun.)
1520 Free Online Early-Stage Resources for Founders:
- The Current State of Startups (DataFox): “Notes from the video you should have watched:” Naval Ravikant (AngelList and Venture Hacks) speaking with Jason Calacanis on This Week in Startups
- When and Where to Incorporate, Corporation vs. LLC, etc., by Yoichiro “Yokum” Taku (WSGR). Yokum’s entire site is a goldmine of information for founders
- How To Pick A Co-Founder, by Naval Ravikant, with accompanying 40-minute interview
- The Founders’ Pie Calculator, by entrepreneurship professor Frank Demmler (CMU)
- How Equity Dilution Works for Startups: Great pair of answers by Jim Andelman (Rincon Ventures) and David S. Rose (Gust), posted at Quora
- How to Work with Lawyers at a Startup, by Mark Suster (Upfront Ventures). Mark’s blog, Both Sides of the Table, is one of the best continually evolving resources out there for the venture community
- Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Advisors, by Babak Nivi (AngelList / Venture Hacks)
- From a Twinkle in the Founder’s Eye: Intellectual Property for New Startups – my own overview of the IP landscape (emphasis on Internet and mobile apps)
- Legal Issues for Social Media / User-Generated Content Sites, also by yours truly at Quora
- CompStudy Report on Equity and Cash Compensation at Technology Startups*
- Seed Funding Best Practices, by Mark MacLeod
- National Venture Capital Association’s (NVCA) 2013 prediction survey regarding state of the VC funding market
- Term Sheet Series by Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson. Yes, the whole series — or as many of the 20 posts as you can find time to peruse. [EDIT: They helpfully compiled this wealth of material into a book, Venture Deals. Highly recommended; let’s just ignore that “smarter than your lawyer” part!]
- Term Sheet Generator for Venture Financing, courtesy of my “alma mater” law firm (WSGR)
- Convertible Note Financing Primer: My own in-depth guide at Mashtag, compiled from a 5-part series at Gust Blog
- “Series Seed” Equity Financing Documents by creator Ted Wang (Fenwick & West)
- Convertible Debt, Priced Equity Rounds and Deal Timing – Storified discussion among Fred Wilson, Dave McClure, Mark Suster, Chris Dixon and others, at Gust Blog
- What Is Convertible Equity (or a “Convertible Security”)? by Yokum Taku, who created these documents for The Founder Institute, plus a little bonus editorializing
- “SAFE” (Simple Agreement for Future Equity) primer and documents by Y Combinator.
- Equity Crowdfunding “Comes Up Short” (GigaOm), a good explanation of why true equity crowdfunding is still not an option in the U.S.
* 2008 was the last year the CompStudy Report was made available to the public free of charge. (More recent and future versions can be purchased or obtained in exchange for contributing data.) As a 70-page PDF document, it nevertheless serves as a useful reference.
As I’ve written before, for the whole range of startup-related advice, you can’t go wrong with Venture Hacks by Babak Nivi and Naval Ravikant. Another resource is Founders’ Space, where founders can ask questions for a panel of expert advisors to answer. As far as other startup lawyers go, the blogs by Yokum Taku, Joe Wallin and William Carleton are all excellent resources. My own goal is to branch out beyond legal subjects to include a wide range of business risk, PR, crisis management and other issues that I’ve encountered as an in-house lawyer and executive at a series of technology and media companies over the past decade.
Please feel free to add to the list or provide any other feedback in comments below.